NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The city honored 35 "NYC Hunger Heroes" who have gone above and beyond to provide kids with access to nutritious meals every day.
Mayor Eric Adams, Department of Education Chancellor David Banks, and No Kid Hungry New York presented the honors on Tuesday.
The professionals from the DOE's Office of Food and Nutrition Services come from each of the city's school districts and food service administration teams.
For the first time, this year's Hunger Heroes include inspectors and compliance professionals in addition to the dedicated cafeteria staff who directly serve 800,000 meals to students every day.
Chancellor Banks said, "Whether they work in our schools, or they are in the warehouses that make sure we get the food and various managers, they are all part of this ecosystem of love and support that allows our children to flourish and be all that they are supposed to be."
With more than 400,000 children in New York City facing hunger, or about one in four, the heroes who plan, prepare, and serve school meals are on the front lines of this crisis.
Mayor Eric Adams has a personal connection to one of those heroes.
"My mother was a school food worker; I saw how hard she worked. And I know how hard every one of our DOE cooks and food service workers works every day to deliver for our children with an extra garnish, a smile, and a word of encouragement," Mayor Adams said. "One in four children in our city might experience hunger this year, and that's why it's so important that our Hunger Heroes are helping to combat hunger across our city on a daily basis. Not all heroes wear capes, some wear aprons, and, today, we are proud to honor those heroes."
As much as the meals themselves, the sense of camaraderie among students and staff is vital to the success of the students.
"Our food service workers have a constant presence and play a pivotal role in the lives of our students," Chancellor Banks said. "Beyond preparing and serving delicious and nutritious food, they are friends, caretakers, and caring adults who check in on our kids and ensure they receive the nourishment and support they need. There are no words to express my gratitude to the Hunger Heroes being recognized today and to all of the food service workers in schools across the city doing this critical work for our young people."
Critical work done by school lunch aides like Beverly Prescott, who said, "If I could bring a good feeling or help a child, feed a child in any way who's hungry, then I have done my job."
The kitchens are open all year round, during holiday breaks, and throughout the summer.
"No matter what challenges children may face at home, they can count on our Hunger Heroes to provide nutritious meals every school day - often going above and beyond to make sure New York City's kids have a healthy foundation to learn," said Rachel Sabella, director, No Kid Hungry New York. "These are exemplary professionals who are vital to school communities, and we are grateful for their work. At No Kid Hungry, we know how much goes into planning, preparing, and serving school meals, and we celebrate the contributions of every food services professional."
The 2023 NYC Hunger Heroes honored included:
District 1: Rosa Serrata, School Lunch Aide (P.S. 184 Shuang Wen School)
District 2: Svetlana Krasinikova, Cook (P.S. 40 Augustus Saint-Gaudens)
District 3: Leonard Newby, Senior School Lunch Aide (P.S. 113 Anthony J. Pranzo)
District 4: Rajpaul Singh, School Lunch Aide/Cook (Park East HS)
District 5: Raylette Grant, Cook (P.S. 133 Fred R. Moore)
District 6: Wendoly Santos, Senior School Lunch Helper/Cook-in-Charge (P.S.M.S 278 Paula Hedbavny School)
District 7: Christine Hunte, School Food Service Manager (P.S. 25 Bilingual School, 154 Jonathan D. Hyatt, 161 Juan Ponce De Leon, and P168x)
District 8: Jacklyn Beazer, School Lunch Aide (M.S. 301 Paul L. Dunbar)
District 9: Annabelle Bobb, School Lunch Helper (P.S. 28 Mount Hope)
District 10: Julie Zambito, School Food Service Manager (P.S. 56 Norwood Heights, P.S. 307 Luisa Pineiro Fuentes School of Science and Discovery, Walton High School Complex, and Academy of Mount Saint Ursula)
District 11: Nicola Jackson, Senior School Lunch Helper/Cook (P.S. 483 Matilda Avenue School)
District 12: Yolanda Brown, Senior School Lunch Aide/Cook (Bronx Career and College Preparatory High School)
District 13: Juan Taveras, Assistant Cook (P.S. 133 William A. Butler)
District 14: Paulina Valdez Bautista, Manager (P.S. 147 Success Academy, JHS 50 John D. Wells, and Williamsburg High School)
District 15: Orie Urami Yukimi, Senior School Lunch Helper/Assistant Cook (P.S. 130 The Parkside School)
District 16: Vanda Halley-Reid, School Lunch Aide (Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology)
District 17: Brian McKenzie, School Lunch Aide/Cook (M.S. 61 Dr. Gladstone H. Atwell Middle School)
District 18: Beverly Prescott, School Lunch Aide/Cook (P.S. 233 The Langston Hughes School)
District 19: Allison Boston, School Lunch Aide (Van Siclen Community School Campus)
District 20: Giovanna Spata, Senior School Lunch Helper (Franklin D. Roosevelt High School)
District 21: Lisa Marchese, School Lunch Assistant/Cook (Edward R. Murrow High School)
District 22: Evelyn Schein, Senior School Lunch Helper/Cook (P.S. K811 The Connie Lekas School)
District 23: Tsannez Nash, School Food Service Manager (Dr. Jacqueline Peek-Davis School, Christopher Avenue Community School, Brownsville Ascend Charter School Elementary, and Metropolitan Diploma Plus High School)
District 32: Lorene Munro, Senior School Lunch Aide/Cook (I.S. 347 School of Humanities)
District 24: Barbara Targonska, School Lunch Aide (P.S. 290 A.C.E Academy for Scholars)
District 25: Angela D'Amico, Senior School Lunch Aide/Cook (I.S. 237 Rachel Carson)
District 26: Diane Kokosis, School Lunch Assistant/Cook in Charge (Francis Lewis High School)
District 27: Jasoda Sanassie, School Lunch Helper (Far Rockaway High School)
District 28: Keisha James, Senior School Lunch Aide/Cook (J.H.S. 217 Robert A. Van Wyck)
District 29: Janice Sutherland, Senior School Lunch Aide/Cook (P.S. 33 Edward M. Funk)
District 30: Patricia Khayi, Senior School Lunch Aide/Cook (P.S. 166 The Henry Gradstein School)
District 31: Miranda Saad, School Lunch Assistant/Cook (College of Staten Island High School)
Thomas Flynn, Accountability/Compliance Coordinator
Immaculate Semilla, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Advisor
Anthony Kancelaric, Distribution Supervisor
ALSO READ | Top 7 ways to protect yourself from consumer fraud
* Get Eyewitness News Delivered
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News